Congratulations to me! I've finally plowed through all my overseas posts and can get back to Brisbane. In truth I haven't had too many opportunities to dine out at new restaurants in Brisbane since my return... but luckily, this is a big post.
I heard about De Vietnamien through the Twitter grapvine. It looked familiar and I realized this is because I drive past it to get to my parents house from Brisbane city. There's rarely anything to write home about from the Eastern suburbs of Brisbane so I was instantly drawn to it.
Not long after I returned from my holiday, grandpa asked me for a restaurant recommendation to take the whole family to for grandma's birthday. I shortlisted a few and showed dad. He chose De Vietnamien because he liked the look of the dishes on their website. I explained to him that it was French x Vietnamese and this was something that interested him.
It was pouring down on the Saturday night that we went there. Parking is located around the back and we had to run up some exposed steps to get to the nice, enclosed space of the restaurant.
De Vietnamien is very contemporary in decor and the lighting is also quite dim (not uncomfortably so). We were seated in a large booth which felt nice and private but wasn't too great for climbing into and out of in a hurry (this is more obvious when there are older people in your dining party).
The menu at De Vietnamien contains what they call 'small' and 'large' dishes, which I translate to 'entrees' and 'mains'. There are also sides that you can add. We also had the option of a degustation but decided against it. Instead, we opted to chose a variety of small and large dishes and share.
Because our party was 5 in total, we were able to order almost every type of small and large dish. I did the ordering and found myself saying "we'll have everything EXCEPT _____" rather than going through the individual dishes.
Seeing that we were celebrating a birthday, we had a bottle of wine to share too. Cheers everyone!
Complimentary prawn crackers with dips
A plate of prawn crackers acted as our complimentary starter. They came with dips! I've never had prawn crackers with dip before and frankly don't think it's necessary. Dad liked the idea though.
Our entrees started arriving rather quickly and all at once. I had to move quickly to take photos of everything and snatch little tastes here and there.
Mushroom and truffle rice paper rolls - with goats curd and cumberland sauce
The mushroom and truffle rice paper rolls were one of the most enticing dishes on the menu.
Inside of rice paper roll
They were fried to a crisp on the outside. The filling was nice and flavorsome too, although the truffle wasn't prominent.
Spring bay mussels - with lemongrass beuere blanc, coriander, chili and green shallot
The mussels were light and had a nice flavor but in no way the best mussels I've ever had. They were OK but unremarkable compared to the other dishes. The sauce would have been good for dipping bread into.
Kangaroo pho - with petite herb salad, truffle dressing and vermicelli noodles
I remember being immensely curious about the kangaroo pho when I saw it on the website. It was brought out raw and hot water poured over the top. Maybe I was too slow getting to the dish but when I tasted the meat, it was very tough! The stock was definitely not the best pho stock I've tasted. This dish is definitely not easy to share (although that's not really the restaurant's fault).
Harvey bay scallops - with soy and tamarind butter, crisp shallots and soft herbs
My favorite dish (which my highlight of the entire meal, and mum and dad agrees) was the scallops. Mum was the first to try it and a "wow - that's special" escaped her lips before she even put the shell down. I grabbed one enthusiastically and sucked it down. The same thought came to mind. The sauce used is quite unusual, but in all the good ways. It's creamy but encompasses the freshness of lime and chili that Vietnamese dishes are known for. The scallops themselves were cooked to perfection.
Crispy calamari salad - with nuoc mam nem dressing and aioli
I really liked the crispy calamari salad. There was another salt and pepper calamari that I had recently from a different restaurant and it was terrible. We had it sent back for being undercooked and the redid it... but it still came back under. This calamari from De Vietnamien had none of those problems. It was described as crispy and it was indeed, incredibly crispy. Mum said the calamri was a tad overdone on the inside, and that may be so, but I will take crispy over undercooked any day.
Nuoc tuong ngot - barbecued pork belly and Vietnamese coleslaw
Our final entree was the barbecued pork belly. I thought it was a bit on the dry side but in terms of flavor, it was excellent. The pork had this intense, rich, barbecued flavor and slight smokiness. Mum said this was her second favorite dish.
We were presented with some palate cleansers before we progressed to the mains. Usually I get palate cleaners when transisting from mains to desserts but, whatever... no complaints from us. I can't remember what these were but they tasted like red wine sorbet.
The mains took a while to arrive and they all came at once.
Organic duck breast - with mille feuille of caramelised onion and beetroot, duck sausage and star anise jus
The first I tried was a duck breast. It didn't look that outstanding to me so I was pleansantly surprised that the skin was very crisp. The duck itself had a nice flavor too. The dish also came with a mille feuille of onion and beetroot and I thought this was very tasty. The duck sausage packed a punch too.
Twice-baked roquefort souffle - with courgette salad and poached quince
I couldn't resist sneakily ordering a vegetarian dish. The twice baked roquefort souffle sounded too good to miss! The souffle component had a distinct blue cheese flavor. The courgette salad was fresh and zesty.
Black angus - with potato boloinger, smoked pork hock, wombok and bordalaise jus
The black angus was a well-cooked steak but nothing more. The same could be said for the potato stack - yummy (because it's a stack of creamy potatoes) but otherwise unexciting. I did like the bed of smoked ham and cabbage underneathe though... it was homely and reminded me of something mum cooks.
Lamb back strap - with parsnip puree, ox tail spring roll and tawny jus
I thought the lamb was cooked perfectly - just pink. Interestingly, no one touched the spring roll until right at the end when all the food had nearly gone. It's a shame because the ox-tail spring roll was quite delicious! We couldn't guess the filling at the time but now I know.
Gold band snapper - with seafood bouillabaise and vermicelli noodles
Our obligatory seafood pick was the snapper. It came crumbed in a sea of bouillabaise with a few decorative mussels. I don't even recall eating the snapper so it must not have left an impression on me.
Roasted potatoes with szechuan pepper
When I was ordering, dad was concerned there wouldn't be enough food for everyone. It seems strange now, looking back on the abundance of dishes we had. He must've been very hungry. To alleviate his worries, I had also ordered a side of roasted potatoes. The szechuan pepper really added something to this otherwise ordinary dish. It was very complimentary. This is something we could easily do at home.
Throughout the meal, as we were eating the mains, my family had one significant recurring complaint: the dishes were cool (temperature cool). There's something in Chinese culture that greatly emphasizes the importance of hot dishes being HOT when they are served.
I found most of the dishes pretty tasty regardless but my dad and grandparents were too distracted by the dishes being lukewarm. We gave feedback about this to the waitress and she reported back later that it was because the chefs were trying to bring the dishes out at the same time. I know all Western restaurants do this though so it's something that can be perfected with better timing or perhaps better equipment to keep dishes that are finished earlier warm. Aside from that, we were sharing our dishes and they knew that, so it would have been better to ask if we would mind having them out as they finished cooking rather than all at once.
Despite all this, grandpa insisted we try at least a couple of desserts.
I went with no. 1 and 2 on the menu.
Vietnamese coffee souffle - with condensed milk ice-cream
The first was a Vietnamese coffee souffle with condensed milk ice-cream. I thought this was a perfect dish for this restaurant, marrying Vietnamese flavors with a classic French dish. It was well-executed too: light souffle, silky ice-cream.
Apricot and coconut barvarois trifle
The other dessert we had was a trifle with barvarois, poached fruits, toasted coconut and a puff pastry straw. I didn't think much of this dessert at all. There was an apricot flavor to the whole thing, which wasn't unpleasant but the dessert as a whole too greatly ressembled yogurt and muesli.
I found De Vietnamien to be a great restaurant overall. It does fusion cuisine well. The dishes aren't too crazy although if anything, they lean more towards pure Modern Australian in style. I read a comment online from someone who suggests they incorporate a greater Vietnamese influence into their dishes and I agree. There were a few standout dishes and nothing was too disappointing. The rest of my family might have a different opinion though because they were really let down by the dishes not being hot enough. That's a real shame.